How to Implement a 4-Day Workweek

Taking these steps will make for a smooth transition when implementing a 4-day workweek.

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How to Implement a Four-Day Workweek
How to ensure a successful transition to a shorter workweek

Here's what you need to know:

  • Clarify exactly what you mean by a 4-day workweek
  • Strategize other ways to measure productivity
  • Try reducing or eliminating meetings

There are plenty of pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not pivoting to a 4-day workweek is right for your company. The rise of flexible work arrangements and work from home situations now characterizes the modern workplace. So it’s no surprise that workers and businesses big and small are questioning whether or not working Monday through Friday each week is really necessary.

The decision absolutely comes down to what’s right for you and your business. It’s a decision that only owners and their leadership teams can make. But for businesses that have decided that a 4-day workweek can work for them, how exactly do you go about making the transition?

Just like the decision to go to a 4-day workweek, transitioning to one is going to look different at different companies. But in general, here are some steps to follow and things to consider as you make the move.

Clarify exactly what you mean by a 4-day workweek

It might sound straightforward, but as anyone who has overseen major business shifts before knows, things can get complicated quickly. Does a 4-day workweek mean 40 hours of work undertaken across 4 days? Or does it mean that a full workweek is now 32 hours of work?

Of course, there are downsides to a 32-hour workweek. Customers might experience longer wait times to hear back from your customer service teams. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can stagger workweeks so some people work Monday-Thursday while others work Tuesday-Friday. Plus, you can communicate the potential for longer wait times to your customers, emphasizing that the move was made because you value the well-being of your employees.

It might sound jarring to cut 8 hours of work out of everyone’s week. But before you make any assumptions, find out how many hours your employees are actually working each week. Just because someone is in the office doesn’t mean they’re working. Everyone chats at the water cooler and goes out for coffee. Data and facts rather than anecdotes and worries are your friend in this process.

Retool how you measure workweek success

With the data you need in hand, the next step is to make changes based on what you’ve learned.

As Ashley Whillans and Charlotte Lockhart wrote in Harvard Business Review last year, one key element of transitioning to a 4-day workweek is reconsidering how success is measured. “We tend to focus on objective, easily quantifiable success metrics such as hours worked rather than more qualitative metrics such as productivity or well-being,” the authors write.

Rather than relying on easily quantifiable metrics like hours in the office, strategize other ways to measure productivity.

This is how time in the office (which traditionally means 8 hours a day, Monday-Friday) gets confused with productivity. Rather than relying on easily quantifiable metrics like hours in the office, strategize other ways to measure productivity.

Maybe success is now measured by meeting certain goals on weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even yearly timelines. When the focus is on the outcome rather than how exactly a goal is achieved, there’s less emphasis on how (and when) the work gets done.

Try starting small when changing your workweek

Nectafy, a growth content company, moved to a 4-day workweek in January 2020. One of the things they learned is that trialing a 4-day workweek isn’t the best way to go.

“Announcing a trial would inherently skew the results,” Nectafy’s founders wrote in Build Remote. “Say you tell your employees that you’ll do a six-month trial of working less for the same pay. If it goes well, you’ll implement it permanently. Won’t everyone become more productive to ensure than result?”

Instead, they suggest starting small with something like Summer Fridays instead. Taking Fridays off during the summer is a much smaller leap and one that many workers and businesses are already doing or have at least heard of. Then, at the end of the summer, all you have to do is simply continue the policy that you’ve already had in place. It’ll be a much less jarring transition for anyone who has reservations about how it might go.

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Try reducing meetings if you’re concerned about a time crunch

If you’re not quite sure how you’ll go from a 40-hour week to a 32-hour week, start looking at the places where you can trim fat from schedules. Meetings are likely a good place to start.

Everyone complains about meetings for a reason — they get in the way of the actual work. Of course, some meetings are simply necessary. The goal isn’t to get rid of meetings you need, but to eliminate or at least shorten the ones that you don’t.

Don’t know where to start? Try shortening one-hour meetings to 45 minutes, 30-minute meetings to 20 minutes and so on. If you’re worried about efficiency with shortening meetings, start implementing some tried-and-true meeting productivity strategies. Require that all meetings have an agenda and set cultural expectations that people don’t show up to them late.

Any change is going to bring at least small bumps in the road, so don’t expect it to be smooth sailing from the beginning. Be prepared to adjust as you go and learn on the fly. Communication with employees and across managers and leadership is essential to get to where you want to be: a business that runs efficiently on a 4-day workweek schedule.

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